I wrote a piece for Babytalk titled Meet the Modern Dad back in 2009. The story talks about why today’s fathers are contributing more to their child’s care and well-being. (“He changes diapers!” read the cover line.) While Dow Jones didn’t change any Huggies for him, the economy did force him to change his daditude.
When I wrote “Meet the Modern Dad,” we were smack dab in the middle of the recession. And the research at that time showed that women were faring better during the downturn: men accounted for 71 percent of the jobs that evaporated between December 2007 and June 2009 (many of those gigs were in male-dominated fields like construction and manufacturing). As a result, more dads found themselves at home. So it’s no coincidence that the stay-at-home dad population grew significantly during that time period. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 105,000 fathers stayed home to care for their families in 2002. By 2008, that figure jumped 33 percent to 140,000. (A small number, but worth noting nonetheless.) Meanwhile, there were more women than ever in the workforce, and 18 percent of them earned more than their spouses.
Fast-forward to our current economic “recovery” period, and the tide has turned. The past two years have been far better for men, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center. From June 2009 through May 2011, men gained 768,000 jobs, and women lost 218,000 jobs.
But here’s the most interesting nugget: Dad is taking Mom’s job at Best Buy. According to the Pew study, one of the big reasons the job situation has improved for men is because guys have been successful finding jobs in traditionally female-centric sectors: retail, education, health care, food services, hospitality, and arts and entertainment.
I’ve met a number of fathers over the past few years who were downsized from their jobs only to become teachers and waiters, clothing store owners and hotel concierges. Consider for a moment the jobs that men lost back in 2007 and 2008: Wielding bulldozers and jackhammers, surveying land for real estate development, pouring concrete, building cars, making furniture. This, by and large, is dude work.
Now that many of those traditional gigs are gone, we’re moving into fields largely populated by women. We're teaching English and math at public and private schools, helping at hospitals and hospice centers, selling clothes at Macys, and whipping up mocha lattes at Starbucks.
When it comes to supporting a family, a good dad will do what’s needed to earn. Sometimes that means starting over. Sometimes that means commandeering the Frappuccino machine.